The BJP would rather slot Rahul Gandhi in the camp of nation-breakers when he speaks up for human rights activists.
Rahul Gandhi has been advised not to be seen as going soft on the question of nationalism. People of India don’t like soft nationalism and won’t compromise on national security, ThePrint editor Shekhar Gupta said, criticising Rahul for his sharp condemnation of the raids on political and human rights activists.
It has given the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the members of the government an excuse to brand Rahul as a Maoist sympathiser and an anti-national. Do Maoists want to disband the Indian nation? Have they at any point in their history advocated the balkanisation of the Indian nation as it has been for the last 70 years?
They do fantasise about capturing state power through a protracted armed struggle. We know that all the Communist parties have, at one point or another, entertained the idea of capturing state power through armed insurrection, but they evolved. The openness of Indian democracy persuaded them to engage people in the battle of ideas and test the strength of their ideology.
There are dozens of small and big Communist groupings, but only a few treat Mao as the source of their ideology. Not all are underground, only the CPI(Maoist) is.
If we look at the history of the rule of the Communist parties in different parts of the world, all of them have been nationalists. Be it Stalin or Mao or any other leader, they were ruthless nationalists and expansionists.
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The story of Indian Maoists is not and cannot be different. Their methods maybe wrong not just for the tribals they claim to represent but also for themselves. The state is too powerful for them to even mount a challenge. This is what led the CPI(Marxist-Leninist) to enter the arena of electoral politics. It can be said that what CPI(ML) was three decades ago, the CPI(Maoist) is today.
The state has never been soft on such forces. Not even when the Congress party was in power. In fact, it was Manmohan Singh, not given to hyperbole, who described the Maoists as the biggest security threat.
In the fight between the state and the Maoists, the latter accuses the state of stealing people’s mandate and using its apparatus of violence to coerce people into surrendering their resources for the benefit of a few corporate houses.
The Maoists also claim to represent people and seek legitimacy through an ideology. But in power, they are no better and no worse than other governments. People are subjugated in both situations.
But the state tries to discredit all people’s struggles by calling them the overground faces of the Maoists. They allege the Maoists are directing these movements with the help of respectable faces. This narrative helps the state in using maximum force of law against legitimate, organised people’s movements.
The Maoists, however, are not driving the grassroots movements of farmers, students, Dalits, and the people displaced by developmental programmes. On the ground, the Maoists are depleting and the youth are no longer attracted to them.
People have realised that open, overground struggles have brought more victories and empowered them politically. Democracy thrives not only on elections but is kept alive by these movements/struggles. So, the attempt by the state to cripple them is actually an attempt to de-democratise the society.
Rahul is actually speaking for those targeted by the Pune police and in the process strengthening democracy. The BJP would rather slot him in the camp of nation-breakers. But Rahul has decided to take this risk. Is it moral quixotism?
It is therefore disappointing when Shekhar Gupta describes the JNU half-mockingly as the Republic of JNU.
So, why does the government want us to believe that everything against it is part of a larger conspiracy weaved by the Maoists?
I need not remind Shekhar Gupta that it was the decision of The Indian Express under his editorship to write about the case of Binayak Sen, which led to a mobilisation in his support. Sen had been successfully portrayed as a dreaded conspiring Maoist before the courts. Were it not for a mainstream voice like The Indian Express, his fate was sealed. Do we want all activists targeted by the present regime to be deprived of the support from more mainstream, statist political parties?
One can add that similar disquiet was caused in the Congress party when Rahul decided to visit the grieving family of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri to offer not only his condolences but also his solidarity. The Congress feared that his image of sympathising with a Muslim family would be used by the BJP to portray him as close to the Muslim community.
The Congress has been wary of being seen as siding with the Muslims. We cannot forget that Sonia Gandhi has not been able to visit Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, the Congress leader murdered in the 2002 carnage. She was advised against it.
This moral inability of a party to even publically share the grief of a community, targeted by the majoritarian politics, reflects poorly on all of us. Rahul is digressing from the path his party has adopted for the last few years.
Rahul’s moves as a devout Hindu and the efforts of his spokespersons to show him as a Brahmin again show how the ideology of his party has been compromised gradually, how it has started bowing to the wishes of a majoritarian mindset, and how difficult it is now for the party to find its moorings.
The drift is not new. Way back in December 1947, Indira Gandhi wrote to Nehru from Lucknow referring to the growing influence of the RSS on the Congress party and the government: “The Congress organisation has already been engulfed – most Congressmen approve of these rendencies. So do government servants of all ranks and positions”. (Two Alone, Two Together; letters between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, ed. Sonia Gandhi, Penguin,2005).
Indira herself succumbed to these tendencies in her later years.
Rahul, it seems, is trying to do a balancing act – a devout Hindu with an anti-majoritarian politics. One does not know if he will succeed. But to ask him to distance himself from the idea of human rights is to ask him to do lazy mainstream politics, which is devoid of a moral core.
Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University.
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